Where can I go to see the aurora from Fairbanks? The answer for a faint or weak display is anywhere away from the city, and where there is no light pollution. Big aurora events, you can see the aurora from anywhere in town, including the big box store parking lot!
Map of where to go below
There are too many places to list where you can see the lights. Any open spot with a view toward the north or northeast with little light pollution. You can see the lights while driving, but usually not in the city, as your night vision will be hindered. Dim your cars dash lights! Turn off your headlights when you reach your destination, and to turn off parking lights that like to stay on, use the parking brake.
If the roads are icy, the weather cloudy, or you just don’t want to do it alone, hiring a tour guide is a good choice. You will be around like minded people, interested in seeing the aurora.
The most popular and well known locations are Cleary Summit and Chena Lakes. Cleary can get crowded, as some tour busses park there and leave them running with the lights on. Car drivers routinely block the parking area and even face the wrong direction! There are also overgrown bushes and trees now blocking most of the view. Be polite and turn off your headlights as soon as possible. Honestly, you do not need to go to Cleary Summit unless the aurora is very weak and low. The vantage point lets you see for miles to the northeast, which makes Cleary a great place to go when the aurora is low.
Chena Lakes is big and there is plenty of places to park, despite the new gate closing a portion of the public park. For both locations, watch for deep snow. Get out and look and walk it to test how deep the snow is. New streetlights have destroyed several views at the Recreation area, but some areas are still excellent.
*If you are going to one of these locations and do not see aurora, you will not see it by driving to another location unless the weather is clearer at the next location. You have to wait patiently for the aurora to come out.
Driving around or sitting in a car for hours may not be for everyone, especially when it is really cold! Consider going to a lodge or aurora viewing building. Or, stay in place at a cabin rental or bnb.
Here are a few locations, away from city lights in the Fairbanks areas:
- Chena Lakes
- Cleary Summit
- Nordale Road pullouts
- Back roads south of Van Horn Rd, Easy St. (when the aurora is bright or overhead)
- 3rd floor or higher from tall buildings (face north or northeast).
- Some frontage road areas between Fairbanks and North Pole (aside from some business light pollution)
- Plack Road pipeline pullouts at Parham McCormick Rd. (watch for deep snow)
- Sheep Creek Rd.
- Davis fields ballpark (not when faint)
- Bathing Beauty Pond, Eielson Farm Rd.
- behind FAI airport
- Creamers Field (not when faint)
- Tanana Lakes (gate closes at 10pm), south Cushman area past Van Horn.
- Goldstream Rd
- Olnes Pond
- Wickersham Dome parking area
- Ballaine Rd pullouts
- Ft WW, and Eielson, multiple back of base locations, side roads, near lakes and fields, parks, golf course, arctic survival, dump (light pollution will affect the view). Some housing that are on the edge of the streets, with no neighbors to the north have the best views!
- Chatanika Lodge (kitchen closes at 10pm but you can view aurora parked nearby)
- Pipeline viewing area Steese Hwy
- Pedro’s Monument Steese Hwy
- rest areas along the Parks Hwy
- George Parks Memorial parking area
- multiple areas along Chena Hot Springs Road from Fairbanks all the way to Chena Hot Springs. Notable spots include Mile 25, gravel pit, shooting range, Mile 35, Mile 37, several campground areas (watch for lack of snow plowing!), and the public use cabins (do not go there unless you have a reservation). There is no cell signal past mile 25. Between Steese Hwy and Nordale Rd, there are about 100 new streetlights (as of 2021) which have destroyed the night sky viewing experience. Any old suggestions of Chena Hot Springs Rd use with caution.
- Murphy Dome is an ok spot if you enjoy traveling far on icy roads with massive amount of cars. The aurora seen from there is good if the aurora is faint and low or for getting above a cloud layer. No need to go that far during a big aurora event as aurora can be seen from anywhere. Please do not travel this road in treacherous weather conditions. Murphy Dome is popular because it is on some tourist websites for where to go. There are far better locations that are safer.
Cleary Summit viewing area map. This is a great location when the aurora is weak or low. No need to go here during a big aurora event. Other cars might dampen the experience by leaving lights on, blocking the view, and parking the wrong direction.
How to get to Cleary Summit:
Head north out of Fairbanks on the Steese Hwy. Pass the pipeline. When you get to the weigh station (located on the right), and the gas station (located on the left), this is the town of Fox. Turn right, which is still the Steese Hwy. The signs will say you are headed toward Chatanika, Central, and Circle. Go up the mountain. You will know when you get to the summit, as it starts to go downhill, and there is a sign for trucks that indicate downhill. Right before that sign is a parking area to pull into. The street sign reads Fairbanks Creek Rd and Fish Creek Rd.
If you keep going toward Chatanika on the Steese Hwy, there are some areas to pull over to see the aurora, but in the dark and driving on the ice, if you are unfamiliar, the best area is in fact, Cleary Summit. After Cleary, your cell phone may lose its signal. After Chatanika Lodge, there are no services for almost 100 miles and are closed at night.
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